What is a Laserdisc?

“Laserdisc” would be a word I’d come across every once in a while while reading some of Ebert’s movie reviews from the 80’s. As far as I can tell, this played movies.

But, what was it, how did it work. Was it basically just a DVD without the compression or something?

Basically. The discs were a little bigger than a vinyl record, a lot heavier, much more succeptible to dust an imperfections and WAY Cool to look at. I believe thay never realy took off because the medium was not significantly more user friendly than the VHS/Beta available at the time. Good picture, sure, but big disc with mind wrenching skips if the disc or player got dusty.

DVD is cool, but Matchka predicts it will fail as well because:
a) looks annoyingly like a music CD
b) Tivo

c) has the same skip problems as CDs and Laserdisc

How can you “predict DVD will fail” when it has been one of the most rapidly adopted media in history?

Sure, it may well be superseded, but that doesn’t mean it’s failed. Nothing lasts forever. I’d say DVD has been a resounding success already, and so would many others.

Back to the Laserdisc topic - the big difference between LDs and DVDs is that Laserdiscs actually used [/url=http://www.access-one.com/rjn/laser/legacy/ld96.html]analogue technology. Here is a Laserdisc FAQ which predates the DVD revolution…

DVD is past the point of failure. Like vinyl it may be supplanted someday, but it’s no longer a mere hobbyist medium.

Laserdiscs were an 80’s alternative to the VCR (maybe they became available around the same time, even). As Matchka notes, they look like a shiny metal record album. They never really caught on with the general public; unlike VCR’s, they were unrecordable, and they were also very expensive (as were the players, typically). Videophiles embraced the medium because of the excellent picture quality, but it was simply too expensive and inconvenient for the average consumer. I seem to recall in the early 90’s there was something of an LD renaissance, although they never became mainstream, but the format has now been thoroughly supplanted by DVD. DVD offers almost the same picture quality (unless the people doing the compression screwed up), it’s much cheaper and widely available, there’s a hell of a lot more product released for DVD today than there’s ever been for LD, there are typically more special features available on DVD, and the discs are not as delicate as LD’s were.


Delayed due to a hamster strike:
Wikipedia is your friend…

LDs were quite unlike DVD. They were 12" across and heavy. You or a high-end player had to flip the disc to play the other side. (The player merely moved the pickup to the other side on a U-shaped track, rather than ejecting and flipping)

Video was stored in an analog format, so it was free of the compression artifacts found in DVD. Audio tracks were both analog and digital.

Oops. Here is that dodgy link.

This is horrible. I hate how:
a) I can annoyingly play DVDs, audio CDs, and CD-ROMs in the same drive on my computer,
b) DVD players can annoyingly play audio CDs,
c) I can annoyingly carry both CDs and DVDs in the same carrying case.

I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned that laserdisks are a lot more bulky and unweildy than DVDs or VHS cassettes, too. They’re too big to fit on an ordinary bookshelf, they’re harder to carry around, etc. You could store them on a shelf intended for LPs, I suppose, but LPs were already pretty well on their way out by the time laserdiscs hit the scene.

I knew that answer to the OP. I must now officially be old.

Of course, if you know what LP’s are (as I do), you must be ancient.

At the end of Soak Up the Sun Sheryl Crow says she’s got her “45’s on”. My high school kids have no idea what a 45 is, besides a gun.

Work with kids – it ages you real fast!

I wonder how old the OP is. I’m 20, and I can remember LDs quite well (though we never subscribed for the format). I love looking around in those weird movie specialty stores typically found in downtown cities and stumbling on some forgotten LD. Its like an instant time machine.

DVD is past the point of failure. Like vinyl it may be supplanted someday, but it’s no longer a mere hobbyist medium.

Thanks for the mercy, Cliffy

Perhaps “fail” is not the apropriate word. Maybe “soon supplanted” would have been better. I guess it’s just a matter of opinion. For my purposes and most of the folks I know, DVD is nice, but not nice enough to get me to toss my expensive VHS gear & cassettes and run out and buy expensive DVD gear and discs.

Laserdiscs were used in some unique arcade video games in the early 80’s, notably Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. There is quite a community of laserdisc game collectors, and the discs for these games can run up to $400 or more for the rare ones. There is a website for laserdisc game fans:


Check out the message board for true obsession.

What is this expensive DVD gear you speak of? Good dvd players can be had for $90.